August 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 8|
Assistance from a distance
By Alan Richter, Editor
On-site technicians rarely find the solution to a problem with an industrial machine in a manual, and experts frequently must travel to the manufacturer’s site to get the equipment running again. Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE developed the augmented reality system to help experts remotely assist manufacturers.
The system allows technicians to record the malfunctioning machine with a camera attached to the back of a laptop monitor, according to the institute. An image processing program calculates the camera’s position and direction of view and sends this data to the machine builder over standard telecommunications networks. The system is based on a chat protocol, which means everyone involved can communicate either through the chat function or by telephone.
The researchers minimized the quantity of data transmitted to allow the system to function over a cell phone network. “We only transmit location data, not pictures,” said Dr. Thomas Alexander, head of the research team at the institute. “We do that by attaching 2-D bar codes to various parts of the machine. When the repair technician takes a picture of the malfunctioning machine, the software on the laptop reads those markings and links them to information in the database.”
For more information about Fraunhofer FKIE, Wachtberg, Germany, call +49 228 9435-287 or visit www.fkie.fraunhofer.de. CTEAbout the Author: Alan Richter is editor of CTE, having joined the publication in 2000. Contact him at (847) 714-0175 or email@example.com.
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